Islamic state, or state of Islam
by Aisha Sherazi
In the book review below, Aisha Sherazi has rightly pointed out the issues we have not dealt with, Insha Allah; I will make an attempt to responds to a few issues;
She writes “Which brings me to my initial point. If interpretation is everything in faith, how do we know we are on the right track and not being led astray?”
Let me begin with this statement “To be a Muslim is to be a peacemaker, one who constantly seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence.” Indeed that is the purpose of all religions; to cause societies to practice justice and bring about peaceful co-existence. That is the bottom line message of God to keep his creation in balance per Qur’aan, Surah 49:13: "O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Allah Knows and is Aware." Good conduct is that which removes conflict and causes peaceful co-existence.
If we can understand our faith from the above perspective then going astray would mean going away from the state of peaceful existence. The biggest hurdle is based in human weakness (regardless of what religion you subscribe to) of believing that my way is the best way while denying others their divinity. The vociferous Muslims (or vociferous from any faith) among us do not have the stomach to do their jihad and subdue arrogance. If we do that, then we cannot go astray. Arrogance and spirituality are inversely proportional.
The Islamic technicians of the past have reduced Islam to rituals without giving value to the essence of Islam – submitting to the will of God, which is peaceful existence. We are conditioned to see the practitioners of Islam in rituals, lack of it is automatic declaration of being a non-Muslim, and even a small deviation is not acceptable. It is a pity to see the Universal, all times Islam reduced to rituals.
If we can work on the above statement and develop a consensus, accept and respect the God given uniqueness of each one of the Seven billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge. The moderates among us need to have the passion to speak up and define the guidelines of what is the right track, that can apply to every human on the earth whether one subscribes to Islam (as given) or not. After all, God is not the exclusive property of any one and all religions make a point to say that God is one and that he is the God of everything we can perceive, imagine and see.
Tarek Fatah expresses the wisdom of religion well “Fatah argues that the only viable route is to separate religion from political affairs.” Indeed, we need to separate these two. Much of the conflict emanates from managing the resources (political) and fear that some one may deny you the right and may tempt one to pre-empt in denying other’s right. Religion (Islam or otherwise) teaches one to practice Justice and also shares the idea that everything is owned by God, as we did not bring it with us when we were born nor are we going to take with us.
I am yet to read the book, but agree with him when “he urges Muslims to seek a "state of Islam" within them”. Each one of us has a different approach to solutions, Fatah is confrontational and that approach simply reduces his embrace of possibly a larger audience. He may want to re-consider that. If we want to bring a change, we need to bring more people into our envelope.
Aisha writes “I was even to see some Muslims carry out atrocities in the name of God.” It is human to make mistakes, you will find same percentage of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus or others carry out atrocities in the name of God. It is wrong to single out Muslims, all are guilty. In fact, the idea of – 1/10th of 1% of all people, however you categorize them are extremists, may have some validity.
The comment by Aisha’s Imam “Islam as a religion is perfect. But some Muslim people can be terrible!" Could have been wiser, “every religion intends to bring goodness, some followers are wicked” Some Muslims are terrible so are “some people of all faiths”. Bottom line: You are individually responsible for your acts, today, tomorrow and on the day of judgment.
Turning to Farazana’s book: Indeed, the Neocons are preempting Armageddon. Neocons are as relevant to the teachings of the Christ as the Islamists are to the Prophet Muhammad's teachings. Neither group understands the essence of the religion, instead they thrive on fear and are driven by an imaginary conquest.
The introduction by Dr. Akbar Ahmed is a huge endorsement of Farzana's work.
I have admired the articles and work of Farzana Hassan, president of the Muslim Canadian Congress who has taken a firm stand on moderation in approach that the Prophet taught, I hope and pray more and more Muslims join her in her Jihad to keep Islam pristine, simple, all embracing and peaceful
Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker, Writer and a Moderator. He is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing Pluralism, politics, Islam, Religion, Terrorism, India and civic issues. He is the founder of the World Muslim Congress, a group committed to building bridges and nurturing a world of co-existence. He also heads the foundation for pluralism, an organization committed to studying religious pluralism and pluralistic governance. His personal website is http://www.mikeghouse.net/ and his writings are on the above websites as well as several of the ancillary Blogs listed on the sites.
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Islamic state, or state of Islam?
Two quite different books look at belief and practice
The Montreal Gazette
It was the summer of 1994. I sat in the office of the imam in London's Regent's Park mosque, and read my "shahada," or declaration of faith. I excitedly accepted Islam as my faith, and promised to worship one God and attest that Muhammad (peace be unto him) was His messenger. The imam who witnessed this declaration told me something I shall never forget. "Islam as a religion is perfect. But some Muslim people can be terrible!"
How wise his words turned out to be. In years to come, I was even to see some Muslims carry out atrocities in the name of God. The imam advised me to seek good company and steer away from those who would lead me astray.
Two new books by Canadian writers Tarek Fatah and Farzana Hassan reminded me of that time in my life and of the crucial question: What exactly does being "led astray" mean? How does the way we interpret faith affect how we practise it?
Many Muslims believe Islam to be a way of life that encompasses all aspects of their lives. Fatah's Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State, is a hard-hitting book that challenges Muslims to dispose of the dream of establishing a formal, political Islamic state that governs using Islamic principles and laws. Instead, he urges Muslims to seek a "state of Islam" within themselves, in more of a spiritual sense, and adopt a secular approach to everyday life.
Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, takes the reader on a journey that reflects on how modern attempts to establish a so-called Islamic state have failed.
Fatah cites Pakistan (his birthplace and where he was jailed twice for his left-wing views as a student) and its failures to become the Islamic country it set out to be. Its failure to become a democracy (an Islamic principle) was the opening chapter in a long history of political turmoil and tragedy. He also analyzes the deep-set hypocrisies within the Islamic regimes of Saudi Arabia and Iran, where racial and tribal allegiances take precedence over piety. In addition, he tackles the topic of Palestine and acknowledges that Muslims collectively must clean up their own house before pointing the finger at anyone else.
He suggests how the Palestinian people can gain back some of their lost land by using Israeli contravention of UN Security Council resolutions as the basis for future peace talks, rather than by calls for an Islamist state.
Fatah's book goes on to challenge many ideas about what numerous Muslims call the golden era of Islam that followed the death of Muhammad. His historical analyses help the reader understand why he feels that Muslims never truly regained political or religious momentum after that tragic event. Fatah is deeply concerned that democratic principles were abandoned following the prophet's death, and the power struggle that ensued paved the way for the racial and tribal conflicts that still plague Muslims. Despite the bleak picture he paints, he also highlights the strengths of individual leaders and instances where justice was served.
Fatah argues that the only viable route is to separate religion from political affairs. However, while providing a detailed historical perspective about why an Islamic state has not worked thus far, Fatah's book falls short of providing solutions. Although many of his criticisms are justified, he doesn't really help the reader grasp how people should assimilate into western society. Immigrants from all backgrounds often feel that their cultural and religious habits define them as people. How does one help them adopt secularism comfortably?
In the third part of his book, Fatah tackles modern issues like jihadism, the hijab or veil, Sharia law and the overall Islamist Agenda (Fatah's term for Muslims who advocate Islam as a political creed, not just a religion) in the West. Here, sadly, he fails to write in a manner that will unite the secular and what he terms the Islamist sections of the Muslim community in the West. He points the finger at numerous organizations as being Islamist. However, rather than build bridges to those who could help him with his cause, I suspect he alienates many fellow Muslims with his accusatory style.
While Fatah's book appeals to a broad range of readers, Prophecy and the Fundamentalist Quest, the latest book by Farzana Hassan, president of the Muslim Canadian Congress, is probably more of interest to readers attracted to theological discussion. The book is well-researched and written, and uses many sources to compare and contrast Islam and Christianity and trace the origins of apocalyptic prophecy in both religions.
Hassan's book also deals with how religious fundamentalism can be used to push an end-agenda, marshalling prophetic scripture and other accounts to attain final religious supremacy. She warns how dangerous it can be to interpret such texts literally.
Perhaps the most poignant part of Hassan's book is when she parallels Christian and Islamic prophecies about the end of the world with what is happening globally today. She rightly points out that radical factions of both faiths claim to be the "good" that will triumph over the "evil."
Which brings me to my initial point. If interpretation is everything in faith, how do we know we are on the right track and not being led astray? Having read both books, I came to the conclusion that no matter on what path God has guided us and through whom, He has provided us with common values, such as compassion, love, truth, respect and justice. Though God is the ground from which these stem, faith crystallizes into organized religion, which can produce bitter fruits and devastating results if we don't remind ourselves of the root values that were sent to us all.
I thoroughly enjoyed both books, which challenge the heart as well as the mind, despite the fact that I didn't agree with everything the authors say.
Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State
By Tarek Fatah
John Wiley & Sons Canada,
432 pages, $31.95
Prophecy and the The Fundamentalist Quest
By Farzana Hassan
McFarland & Company,
185 pages, $35